Just two weeks ago marked 10 years since Matthew Shepard’s brutal murder. When we think about hate crimes, we often think about Matthew and about other young people whose lives were tragically cut short by hate. But what about hate crimes against other members of our community?
I was shocked to read that two elderly men were murdered in their Indiana home in what may likely be an anti-gay hate crime. The police are not yet letting anyone know how the men were killed, or when. All they will say is that their murders were done by “violent means.”
Both of the men were in their 70s; one of them used a wheelchair.
I didn’t know Milton Lindgren, 70, or Eric Hendricks, 73, but their relationship is something a lot of gay folks dream of: having a loving partner to share your life with. The recent marriage rulings in California and Connecticut marked another milestone for our community, and reinforced the possibility that the laws that allow people to take care of each other into their retirement years will catch up to the commitments that so many couples have already made to one another.
Those who lived on Milton and Eric’s southwest-side block counted them as friendly, kind neighbors. But nice neighbors withstanding, Milton and Eric were victims of anti-gay harassment and vandalism in their home for at least the past few months.
Police reports verify that someone had cut the couple’s phone and cable lines twice in the past few months. Not only that, but signs with anti-gay sentiments, including the f-word, were posted on their front door.
I can’t imagine growing up gay in the 1940s, and then finally making it to 2008—a time when marriage is an option for a few states and counting, more and more states offer nondiscrimination protections—and finding that even in a large city, your home can be vandalized and your life can even be taken simply because you're gay.
We have made progress, but there is much work to be done changing people’s hearts and minds about us and our community.